Workers reject strike weapon
Workers are much less likely to go on strike than they were in the 1970s and 1980s as the UK goes into a recession, according to union activists and industrial relations experts.
Last month, in a groundbreaking agreement, union members at digger firm JCB voted to take a cut in wages to save 322 jobs. Union leaders there said that workers had no appetite for industrial action to try to prevent all compulsory redundancies.
Craig Burton, 48, a shop steward for union GMB who has worked at the Staffordshire firm for seven years, said: ‘Industrial action was not on the cards. The days of strikes are long gone. No one ever gets their money back. With higher food and fuel bills, losing even a day’s wages is tough.’ Other companies are in talks with unions for similar voluntary pay cuts to limit redundancies.
Unemployment is rising at its fastest rate since the recession of the early Nineties, with the jobless total expected to hit two million by Christmas. But union membership has almost halved since the movement’s heyday in 1979, when more than 13 million workers were members. In the private sector, just under 17 per cent of the workforce is unionised, and most of these are older workers.